A clumsy learner’s adventures: 7+ funny Turkish words

Here we go again. Back to the basics. It is not a secret that learning Turkish is a demanding job, needing a lot of your time, energy and… imagination. You must commit yourself with all your heart and mind. Unless you want to end up in a “complicated relationship” lasting forever and ever. Which, by the way, is still better than nothing.  Anyway, don’t despair! Besides all the sweating and frustration, learning Turkish can be fun! It depends on your perspective. When you feel you had enough and your brain cells are about to throw up all the Turkish they had stored, instead of looking glumly at your learning materials, take a deep breath and laugh your head off. Think about those Turkish words or expressions that make you giggle. Here’s my short list of funny words/ expressions. Hope to make you(r day) brighter 😉

  1. Piliç çevirme ~ What could you ask for more as a yabancı when you get both chicken (piliç) and translation (çevirme). And no, this meal is not a “translated chicken”, is grilled chicken, another meaning of çevirme being grill on a turning device.

    Photo: Pizza Gold

    Photo: Pizza Gold

  2. Mısır~ I don’t know about you but Mısır is on my holiday bucket list. One day I will visit this amazing country. No, I’m not talking about the land of corn (mısır). I don’t even like mısır (corn) that much! I’m talking about the land of pyramids, Egypt (Mısır). You got it! Turks use the same word for Egypt and corn.  Not so weird if we consider the fact that Türkiye in English is called turkey (animal). So what Turks have to do with turkeys and Egyptians with corn? But wait, there is more:
  3. Hindistan ~ Hindistan is the Turkish word for India. Nothing strange at the first sight, right? Wouldn’t be weird at all if the stem of the word weren’t hindi, which means turkey in Turkish. So India is another turkey, should we call it Turkeystan? 🙂
  4. Batman ~ Turks have their own Batman, or maybe Batman’s hometown is in Turkey. In South-Eastern Turkey there is a city called Batman, and guess what, there is also a Batman University. But I really doubt they are going to teach you fighting techniques.  Batman
  5. Şeftali ~ the fifth word is actually peach, which means şeftali in Turkish, a word you must learn, unless you want to get on people’s nerves, shock them or cause laughter. You probably wonder why, peach is an inoffensive word, right? Not in Turkish. If you read Elif Şafak’s bestseller novel Baba ve Piç (The Bastard of Istanbul), you already got the point. If no, never too late for a great novel. 😉 Piç pronounced as the English peach means bastard, having just like in English negative connotations, used often as a curse. If you ask me, there’s nothing more stupid than calling someonepiç/bastard. Why this word should be offensive? A child who’s parents didn’t get married or who doesn’t have a father is not a shame, is a child, an innocent child, judged by some societies. But that’s another story. Let’s get back to our list!

    Photo: deviantART: asliyazicioglu's

    Photo: deviantART: asliyazicioglu’s

  6. Pis ~ pronounced as the English peace, means dirty in Turkish. Although many Turkish people do know the meaning of peace, using it could get you into funny situations.
  7. Canı istemek ~ “to want”. This expression is a little bit confusing for a non-Turk, as the expression is literally translated as “the spirit/heart wants” (can means “life”, “spirit”, “heart” while istemek means “to want”). For example a Turkish song says: Canım seninle olmak istiyor = I want to be with you, lit. my heart wants to be with you. Nothing weird, right? But I can’t say the same about Canım elma istiyor ~ I want apple. lit. my heart wants apple. An apple a day keeps the doctor away, but still…

+some words for Romanian speakers:

  1. Tembel ~ lazy, in Romanian means stupid. So you could guess the look on my mother’s face when one of my Turkish friends jokingly called me tembel 🙂
  2. Cem ~ a common Turkish name which in Romanian (written as gem) means jam. At least it’s sweet 😉
  3. Murat ~ Turkish name, in Romanian means pickled. I guess is not very pleasant to be called like something preserved in vinegar or salt water. But for sure is funny. 😉

Funny Turkish for English speakers

Very funny! How a conversation about drinking ayran (Turkish diluted salted yoghurt) in Turkish might sound in English:599377_447913915242140_636774767_n

Turkish version:

Ayran içtin mi? (Did you drink ayran?)
Evet, içtim. (Yes, I drank)
Ayran içmek istiyorsan, iç. (If you want to drink ayran, drink)
Hayır, demin içtim. (No, I have just drunk)
Kaç bardak içtin? (How many glasses did you drink?)
On bardak içtim. (I drank ten glasses)
Vay hayvan vay! (Oh you animal!)

Photo: Turkish Memes-Facebook [1]

Laugh and…Turkish with Nasrettin Hoca

When learning a foreign language on our own, we usually tend to follow the traditional path, learning grammar, exercising, memorizing vocabulary… step by step, again and again. Feeling that we are moving forward too slowly. Impatient and frustrated. Fighting to keep our motivation at an acceptable level. Transforming the once enjoyable activity into a boring routine… I’m very familiar with this scenario. A gray scenario which can be integrated into a success story, if we are not afraid of using colours. Learning a foreign language doesn’t have to be a dull or unpleasant activity. Learning a foreign language should be fun. Learning Turkish can be fun! Sometimes we simply need to disconnect from our traditional learning activity by… learning… in an unconventional way. It can be more effective than you think. There are various methods we can employ in language learning. Today, given that is Sunday, I will use a funny method. Learning by translating short, humorous stories. I’m introducing you Nasrettin Hoca (or Nasreddin Hoca), a funny and wise 13th Century character, who’s anecdotes and humorous stories became part of the Turkish folklore. You have probably heard about Nasrettin Hoca even if you are not a Turk. I discovered him long time ago, as Nastratin Hogea in Romanian children story books. Now, let’s read three of his stories in Turkish! Enjoy them!


Hoca hızlı ve yüksek sesle bağırmaya çalışıyordu. Biri onu gördü ve ona bir şey olduğunu sandı. Hemen Nasrettin Hoca’nın yanına kadar koştu ve sordu:

-Hocam ne oldu?

Nasrettin Hoca bağırmaya devam etti ve dedi ki,

-Ben, benim sesimin ne kadar uzağa gittiğini merak ediyorum…

English translation:


Hoca was shouting loudly. A man saw him and thought that something had happened to him. He immediately run to Nasrettin hoca and asked him:

-What happened Hoca?

Nasrettin hoca continued to shout and said:

-I’m curious how far my voice can reach…


Bir gün Nasrettin Hoca şehre gelip, bir arkadaşıyla birlikte handa kalmış. gece yarısı arkadaşı sormuş :

-Hocam, uyudunuz mu?

-Buyurun bir şey mi var?

-Biraz borç para isteyeyim demiştim.

Nasreddin hoca derhal horlamaya başlayıp:

-Ben uyuyorum!

English translation:


One day Nasrettin Hoca went in the town, and stayed in an inn with one of his friends. At midnight his friend asked:

Hoca, are you sleeping?

-Is there something wrong?

I wanted to ask you to borrow me some money.

Nasreddin Hodja started immediately to snore:

I’m sleeping!


Bir gün padişah Nasreddin Hoca’dan sormuş :

-Hocam ben ölünce cennete mi gideceğim yoksa cehenneme mi, söyle bakayım?

Hoca padişahtan korkmadan :

-Cehenneme gidersiniz padişahım.

Padişahın sinirden sakalları titremiş. Bu durumu gören Hoca :

-Kızmayın padişahım ben aslında size cennete gidersiniz diyecektim fakat sizin cellatlarınızın kılıçlarıyla ölen suçsuz kişilerden cennet dolup taşmış. Bu yüzden cennete sığmazsınız diye cehenneme gidersiniz dedim.

English translation:


One day the sultan asked Nasrettin Hoca:

-Hoca, tell me, when I die, will I go to heaven or to hell?

Hoca, without being afraid of the sultan:

– You will go to hell.

The sultan was shaking his beard with anger. Noticing the situation Hoca added:

-Don’t be angry, my sultan, I would have really wanted to say that you are going to go to heaven, but the heaven is already full of the innocent people killed by the swords of your executioners. That’s why I said that you are not going to go to heaven but to hell.

*Native Turks and proficient speakers may find minor errors in my translation, given that, as I said in my previous posts, I’m still learning Turkish. Therefore if you notice any mistakes I’m kindly asking you to let me know.


Image source: [1]

Source of Turkish stories: [2]